How to avoid road rage
Driving is supposed to be fun. It is movement and we love the feeling of moving. So much so, that when someone blocks our movement we get annoyed. In the heat of the moment this can turn into road rage and trigger actions that can have terrible consequences.
Road rage is entirely natural in a way, because anger is natural. It is a mechanism to trigger movement. It’s a primal survival-type response back from when we swung around in the trees or got chased by hairy mammoths and quick, reactive movement meant survival.
But we weren’t speeding at 100kms per hour on wheels back then. Anger that turns into roadrage is a potentially dangerous culture clash of a primal function meets a futuristic machine.
It can also be a response to cumulative experiences of obstruction in other areas of life. A recent study found that people who seem perfectly nice and considerate in daily life, are more likely to turn into raging maniacs on the road.
Road rage can also just happen in the moment, or at the end of a long day. Either way there’s some simple things you can do to trick that primal anger response into the ‘off’ position, reduce your stress and enjoy driving regardless of what happens around you.
The first thing to do is when you get into the car, don’t start the engine right away. Sit for a few seconds.
Then place your hands on your belly with the centre of your palms about 50mm below your belly button). Take a deep breath in, expand your belly. Breathe out, and contract the belly.
This instantly calms you, it takes you out of your head and into your body.
It also creates a template of how it feels to have space between stimulus and response.
Be in the car now, not already at the destination in your head. Then start the engine.
Don’t tune into commercial radio stations while you drive. Ads and disc jockeys shouting at you increases aggression. Select some music you like or something that you want to hear, this helps you feel that you are in charge.
Have a bottle of water with you. Take occasional sips. Water helps move chi or energy. Chi flow prevents anger. Water also cools temper and it symbolizes flow or movement.
Then, whenever someone cuts you off, slows you down or does something stupid right in front of you, immediately repeat the word ‘compassion’.
This activates the part of the brain that is responsible for empathy. You can only hold one thought in your mind at a time, so if you keep repeating ‘compassion’ the part of the brain that responds to threat is not activated.
That’s the function you want to avoid, because it triggers action in response to stimulus, and whatever you do now will be impulsive and you will regret later.
Be deliberately courteous to other drivers too. Let someone in, in front of you, thank someone who does the same to you.
If you really want to challenge yourself take it up a notch and repeat the word ‘love’ in stressful traffic situations. Say ‘I love you’ (silently!) to the drivers of cars that annoy you. This flips a comedic switch, it inevitably makes you laugh.
Apply this in all parts of your life and you’ll enjoy driving and flow past all obstacles.